Florida Parks and Recreation

The state of Florida features close to 200 beautiful parks and recreation facilities. Each park attracts residents and visitors from all over the country, as they offer swimming, fishing, hiking, beaches, birdwatching, historical sites, and more. Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Gainesville, and the Florida Keys are home to a wide variety of Florida’s parks. The list below mentions 27 Florida parks and recreation areas located near these specific cities along with brief summaries of each.

Florida State Parks Near Tampa

Tampa is Florida’s third-largest major city. It can be found in the central region of Florida and offers several safe and charming parks and recreation facilities. The following are eight of the Florida state parks near Tampa:

  • Hillsborough River State Park is close to downtown Tampa and is a great escape from the bustling city. Visitors can swim, camp out, hike, canoe or kayak, and learn about the history of this park. With trails stretching across seven miles of land, there is always something neat to see or do.
  • Skyway Fishing Pier State Park is well-known for possessing the longest fishing pier throughout the entire world. This is a very popular place for fishermen and fisherwomen to congregate at any time of day or night. Different types of fish can be caught at the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park, including grouper, cobia, sea bass, tarpon, snook, pompano, sheepshead, and many more.
  • Egmont Key State Park is a peaceful area filled with wildlife and beautiful beaches. This park is tucked away and can only be accessed by a boat. Visitors enjoy spending time at the Egmont Key State Park because they can learn about its incredible history and see the lighthouse that has remained for almost two centuries. The park is also a great place for fishing, swimming, and having a picnic lunch.
  • Honeymoon Island State Park is one of the most popular parks in the state of Florida. Visitors can take advantage of the many perks of this park, such as the four-mile beach, three-mile hiking trail in the forest, amazing wildlife animals, and the Rotary Centennial Nature Center. Bicycling, fishing, swimming, and hiking are a few of the activities that individuals participate in at Honeymoon Island State Park.
  • The Ybor City Museum State Park provides a historical and cultural perspective of Ybor City (a neighborhood in Tampa) and the making of cigars. Individuals from all over the country visit the park to learn about and view the Ferlita Bakery, the La Casita, the ornamental garden, and more.
  • Little Manatee River State Park is a well-favored place for nature lovers. It possesses a large river that flows over 40 miles and leads to the Tampa Bay. This park also features some of the best hiking trails in the Southwest Florida region. Tourists and locals enjoy visiting the Little Manatee River State Park, as it offers horseback riding, canoeing, camping, hiking, and picnic areas.
  • The Terra Ceia Preserve State Park stretches across 2,000 acres of forests, water, land, and communities. This park is in the process of being restored, but visitors can still access the park by foot and enjoy a fun-field day of hiking, fishing, and kayaking.
  • Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park is composed of multiple islands along the Little Manatee River and the Tampa Bay shore. Individuals can only visit the 617-acre islands by private boat. It is a favorite pastime for those that enjoy watching birds, canoeing, kayaking, and relaxing by the water.

Florida State Parks Near Miami

Miami is a well-known major city that is located at the southern tip of Florida. It is the second-largest city in the state of Florida and is the center of arts, culture, finance, and more. There are also many parks situated within this city for locals and tourists to visit. Here are four of the Florida state parks near Miami:

  • Oleta River State Park is the largest urban park in the entire state of Florida. It offers locals and tourists a 15-mile biking trail, hardwood hammocks, paddleboats along the Oleta River, green forests, and a beautiful scenery. This park is a hidden gem, overlooked by the buzzing downtown area. The Oleta River State Park is a wonderful place to go swimming, camping, fishing, and picnicking.
  • The Barnacle Historic State Park is a historical treasure to the Miami area. It represents the days when the only way to reach Miami was to travel by boat. Individuals who visit this park will see The Barnacle House, which was built in 1891 and was the house of Ralph Middleton Munroe. Locals and visitors use the park for picnics, walking their pets, relaxing by the water, and more.
  • The Hugh Taylor Birch State Park was a gift to Fort Lauderdale from an attorney, Hugh Taylor Birch. He wanted the area to be used and appreciated by those after him. It remains a terrific place to enjoy a good book, practice skating, relax, have a picnic, exercise, and more.
  • Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is a significant part of Florida’s history. Visitors enjoy taking informational tours of the park, seeing the stunning views from the Cape Florida Lighthouse, bicycling throughout the park, kayaking or boating in the water, and relaxing on the beach.

Florida State Parks Near Orlando

Orlando is the fourth-largest major city in Florida and one of the most visited areas around the globe due to its major attractions, such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. Families are always on the lookout for great parks in the area to have picnics, go swimming, enjoy nature, and other activities. Below are two of the Florida state parks near Orlando:

  • The Wekiwa Springs State Park provides guests with an outstanding experience. They can relax and read a book in a hammock, take in the sights of wildlife and the river, paddle on a canoe, and more. Residents and tourists visit the park often in their spare time and take part in the other activities such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, and kayaking. The Wekiwa Springs is in close proximity to downtown Orlando and is one of Orange County’s oldest tourist attractions.
  • Lake Louisa State Park is a paradise to nature enthusiasts. It consists of a variety of wildlife animals, plants, trails, and lakes. The three lakes that are situated in the park are the Dixie Lake, Hammond Lake, and Louisa Lake. Families frequently visit the park to join in the fun of paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, and bicycling.

Florida State Parks Near Gainesville

Gainesville can be found in the North Central region of Florida. It offers some of the most incredible parks that feature wildlife, farmland, flowers, scenic views, and more. Here are four of the Florida state parks near Gainesville:

  • Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail provides a 16-mile trail to the natives and visitors of the Gainesville area. It is a lovely strip of land that offers plants, wildlife, culture, historical sights, and beautiful landscapes. The Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail is a great place to exercise and keep fit while taking in nature and the Florida railroad history.
  • The Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park consists of many different animals, such as wild horses, bison, birds, alligators, deer, and much more. Families and young people frequently visit the park to fish, canoe, hike, and stay overnight on the campground. Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park also features eight hiking trails and a tower that is 50-feet tall to take in the exciting views and wildlife.
  • The San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park offers the community a place to ride their bicycles, hike through the forests, observe a beautiful scenery, learn about history, go horseback riding, and watch wildlife animals roam around. Nature and animal fanatics appreciate this park, as it is home to bobcats, deer, turkeys, foxes, and many different types of birds.
  • Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is a delightful escape from reality during one’s leisure time. Families frequently visit the park to go snorkeling, swimming, paddling, hiking, camping, picnicking, and more. It is known for its beautiful, fresh springs that have been named Little Blue Spring, Kiefer Spring, Johnson Spring, and Naked Spring. There is also a concession stand providing food and drinks to guests.

Florida Keys State Parks

The Florida Keys are an island that was formed close to the southeastern tip of Florida. The Florida Keys are often described as breathtaking, as they are surrounded by blue ocean water. Within the small area of land, there are several different parks for tourists and residents to visit and participate in outdoor activities. The following are nine of the Florida Keys state parks:

  • Long Key State Park is one of Florida’s most famous parks. In the past, it was a favored tourist destination for the wealthy, celebrities, writers, and presidents. Now, it is enjoyed by everyone. Long Key State Park offers several entertaining activities such as swimming, wildlife observation, kayaking, camping, gorgeous views of the ocean, and more.
  • The Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park was once owned by an affluent man, William J. Matheson, who built a house on it in 1919. The house now serves as the visitor center of the park and offers daily tours to those interested. The blue water and undisturbed forests that surround the park make it a truly fascinating place.
  • The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail stretches across 90 miles, connecting Key West to Key Largo. Pedestrians use this trail for biking, hiking, skating, fishing, and more. There are also 23 different bridges that offer spectacular views of the blue water surrounding the islands.
  • Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is a large, shaded area containing many different plants, animals, and crocodiles. The park features a six-mile trail, which is popular for nature enthusiasts, bicyclists, and photographers. Rangers provide daily tours to individuals interested in receiving a detailed history lesson of the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park.
  • Curry Hammock State Park is 1,000 acres of natural land situated between Key Largo and Key West. It is a beautiful, large area that invites its guests to explore. Visitors of the park often participate in activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and birdwatching.
  • Bahia Honda State Park is a must-see for visitors traveling to the Key West area. At the beginning of the 19th century, this park was a railroad track that led to Key West. It has since been renovated into a modern-day island surrounded by palm trees, blue waters, and incredible views. Guests of the park enjoy snorkeling, kayaking, birdwatching, and boating around the island.
  • Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is one of Florida’s most treasured parks. It has been declared a National Historic Landmark, where guests can absorb the historical aspects of the Civil War. Pictures cannot do this park justice; one must explore the park and take a guided tour to see and experience how the soldiers lived during the days of the war. Other fun activities at the park are swimming, fishing, snorkeling, picnicking, birdwatching, and more.
  • The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was the first undersea park in the United States. It spans across 70 miles and possesses many bright-colored coral reefs, fish, and other sea animals. The tourists and natives of the area frequently visit the park and go on the boat tour, scuba dive, or snorkel to get an up-close look at the aquatic creatures. Guests can also fish, kayak, canoe, swim, and hike.
  • Indian Key Historic State Park is a small island that brings a sense of bliss to its visitors. It has a lot of history, as it was the area of a successful merchandise business from shipwrecks. Visitors can only reach this park by boat. Once they arrive, they may swim, hike, kayak, relax, and sunbathe.

Florida State Parks Things to Do

As you can see, there are a lot of fun and interesting things to do at the parks around the state of Florida. Each park offers a variety of different leisure activities to fit each person’s hobbies, personality, and wishes. Some examples of the Florida State Parks things to do are swimming, horseback riding, hiking, relaxing, picnicking, sunbathing, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, birdwatching, capturing photos, bicycling, skating, reading a good book, camping, going on a tour, paddle boarding, boating, and so much more. There is a park in Florida for any activity that an individual may be interested in.

Chris is a Midwest Transplant that has lived in South Florida since 1999. While he likes to remain active and is an avid sports enthusiast, he's become our go-to provider of reviews of any establishment serving food and booze!